At the risk of over-simplifying things, Immortal: Unchained is essentially a ‘Soulsborne’ game with guns. The developers, Toadman Interactive, have taken the tried-and-true formula of hardcore favourite Dark Souls and run it through a gothic-science-fiction filter, swapping out swords and shields for shotguns and sniper rifles. Unfortunately, though, they also seem to have stripped out all of the hardcore fun and character as well, leaving us with a shallow and tepid experience that feels more like a half-finished fan tribute.
When I review games, I like to start off by talking about the narrative and to be honest, that’s probably the most interesting part of Immortal: Unchained, albeit pedestrian. In a story that feels like it was lifted straight from the page of a mid-eighties dark science fantasy book, the end of all things is upon us as nefarious forces creep out of the abyss to swallow the light of the universe. You play as a mysterious warrior, released from your eternal prison to restore ‘The Monolith’, a structure at the centre of the nine realms that governs ‘The Stream’, the source of all life. You must travel to these corrupted worlds and cleanse them of darkness, fighting off the cybernetic undead and other beastly things. There is supporting lore to be found throughout the world in the form of collectables and points of interest, but unlike Dark Souls or Bloodborne, it’s more overt and quite frankly, forgettable. The narrative is okay, but not something that I’m prepared to spend hours investing in, all the while dealing with a below-average player experience.
The Monolith. Cue the chimps killing each other with bone clubs
If you’re familiar with the Souls series, you know pretty much everything you need to in order to play Immortal: Unchained. For the uninitiated, it is an intense action RPG and the core gameplay loop is one of exploration, elimination and expiration. You travel through the worlds and use your weapon of choice to kill robots and claim their ‘Bits’ (read: Souls), which are used to upgrade your character and guns. If you die in combat, you drop all of the bits you were hoarding and respawn at the nearest activated Obelisk (read: Bonfire). If you manage to make it back to your grave without dying again, you can reclaim your bits and the cycle continues.
Immortal: Unchained’s use of firearms in place of melee weapons is an interesting twist, but much like everything in this game, it feels poorly implemented and half finished. Instead of having a cool sci-fi arsenal at your disposal, you’ll be using the stock-standard fare of assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns and grenade launchers. Sure, you’ll come across different weapons on your travels that may have bonus cold or acid damage, but I never found a gun that felt like a proper investment piece, something to pour tens of thousands of bits into because I loved the way it felt. Not to mention the fact that everything other than a sniper rifle felt more like a pea-shooter, even guns that claimed to be ‘rare’. All of this is underpinned by wishy-washy shooting mechanics; the aiming feels too loose and inaccurate, the range of all weapons is laughably bad and ammo is incredibly limited, only being replenished by a randomly dropped consumable or by interacting with an Obelisk (which also respawns all of the enemies). When you run out of ammo, which you will do frequently, you have the option of whacking them with the melee weapon hanging off your back, but they might as well be purely aesthetic for all the damage they do. Most of the weapons also have a secondary fire ability, which consumes energy (read: Mana) but I never found any of them useful enough to factor them into my combat strategies.
Never bring a sword and shield to an automatic shotgun fight
The overall design is another area in which Immortal: Unchained is lacking, which is a shame given that the original premise is rich with possibility. Environments are dull and linear, enemies are repetitive and uninteresting, all having the same giant glowing weak-spot. There is a dismemberment mechanic, so you can shoot off arms and legs to weaken enemies, but to be honest I didn’t really use it if I wasn’t head-shotting them with my sniper rifle I was using my submachinegun to hose them down. Boss encounters, a big feature in these kinds of games, are weak and cheap. I literally died more times as a result of bad arena design than by a challenging adversary. Graphically, the game is passable at best and everything looks so basic that it almost feels like most of the assets were purchased off of a stock website rather than designed specifically for this game. On the plus side, the character creator is all right and gives you all customisation options regardless of chosen gender, which is always neat.
Ten minutes into “Immortal: Unchained and chill”
If you thought the worst was over, you are sadly mistaken because Immortal: Unchained is also a buggy and broken mess. Around an hour or so into playing I started noticing a lot of texture pop-ins and dropped frames, which got progressively worse as I continued. I’m pretty forgiving in these circumstances and I pushed forward through laggy fights and almost-loaded environments to try and have as good a times as I could. The coup de grâce came when I reached the fourth world, around eight hours in. I explored a bit, got some bits and then retired to a nearby Obelisk. I saved my game and turned it off as usual, but when I loaded it up the next day, I found myself clipped into the environment. I thought it might have just been a bad load, so I tried again and it was worse, my character was wedged firmly into an inescapable wall. No matter how many times or ways I tried to load my save (it only gives you one auto-save and save slot) I couldn’t get out and thus ended my time in this D-grade entry to the genre.
So ends the life of Gort the immortal
It’s really hard not to compare this game to Dark Souls or Bloodborne, or even similar titles from other developers like Lords of the Fallen and The Surge, which all have their flaws, but are all pretty great in their own right. Immortal: Unchained, though, sadly falls considerably short of the mark in almost all aspects. Up until the point where my game glitched out, I was having an okay time, it was almost filling a little FromSoftware-sized hole. If you can overlook the lacklustre execution and potentially game-breaking bugs you might end up enjoying Immortal: Unchained, otherwise I’d suggest waiting for Sekiro.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro | Review code supplied by publisher